Arkansas must pay the attorneys’ fees and costs of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that successfully challenged the constitutionality of Arkansas’ law banning most abortions at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ordered the state to pay $65,580 in attorneys’ fees and $3,445 in costs to the plaintiffs, Drs. Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten.
Aaron Sadler, spokesman for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, said the attorney general’s office will decide in the coming days whether to appeal the order.
In March, Wright struck down most of a 2013 Arkansas law that required a woman seeking an abortion at 12 weeks or later to receive an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and prohibited the abortion if a heartbeat was detected, with exceptions for some medical situations.
Wright upheld the provisions of the law requiring a heartbeat check but said the provisions banning most abortions from being performed unconstitutionally violated a woman’s right to an abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or able to live outside the womb.
The attorney general’s office is appealing the case to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs had asked for $76,560 in attorneys’ fees, but Wright said in her seven-page order Monday that she was reducing the amount because the plaintiffs did not show why it was necessary to bring two New York lawyers to a hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction at which those lawyers presented no arguments.
The doctors are represented in the case by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the abortion ban last year, saying at the time that it was unconstitutional and that the state could end up having not only to defend it in court but also pay the attorneys’ fees of parties that challenged it. The Republican-controlled Legislature overrode the veto.